First and foremost: Rest In Peace Paul Silas. He is an NBA legend, and by all accounts, was a good man.
It feels wrong to have this discussion without acknowledging his passing. It’s the only reason John Lucas is functioning in an interim capacity as the Rockets’ head coach. With that said, if we’re going to talk about the Rockets, it’s a discussion worth having.
Should Lucas have the position permanently?
What is Lucas’ track record?
This piece just got more fun than I expected it to.
Did you know Lucas was the Head Coach of the San Antonio Spurs from 1992 to 1995? I didn’t. In his two seasons at the helm, Lucas went 39-22 (1992-93) and 55-27 (1993-94). That’s pretty good. The Spurs must have really seen something in that Gregg Popovich guy that forced them to let Lucas go.
Lucas’ next head coaching gig would come with the Philadelphia 76ers. It didn’t go as well. In another two-season stint, Lucas went 24-58 (1994-95) and 18-64 (1995-96). In fairness, those teams were led by the likes of Dana Barros and Clarence Weatherspoon. If you’re my age or older, those are fun names to look back on. You haven’t thought of them in a while.
There’s a reason for that.
From 2001-2003, Lucas coached the Cleveland Cavaliers. Similar story: Ricky Davis was probably the best player he had the opportunity to work with during that timeframe, and the Cavaliers lost a lot.
In other words, history doesn’t give us much to work with. Lucas got a good performance out of a decent Spurs team in the early ‘90s, and he’s lost in unwinnable situations since.
What does he bring to the table?
A clash of styles
On a personality level, Silas and Lucas seemingly use very different processes with the intention of achieving the same results.
It’s clearly important to both of them to facilitate the growth of their players as people. Lucas just guides with a sterner hand.
Not sure if you guys heard it on the broadcast, but when KPJ started to iso on Giannis, John Lucas yelled “MOVE IT”, which led to KPJ hitting EG for three.— ᵂᴵᴸᴸ (@BiasedHouston) December 12, 2022
EG missed the shot, but little stuff like that goes a long way.
Let’s be honest: “MOVE IT” is probably advice that Porter Jr. should be receiving on a routine basis. This is the advantage of Lucas in comparison to Silas. These young men need direction, and Lucas is more inclined to give it.
Is that enough to give him Silas’ job?
What about basketball?
Personally, I wouldn’t hand Lucas the keys yet.
I know this won’t be popular. By now, it’s safe to assume more than one Rockets fan has drunkenly gotten “Fire Silas” tattooed on their body. Whether he’s lost the locker room or not, he’s lost the fanbase.
It isn’t fair. Silas was brought on board to coach James Harden and Russell Westbrook. He was hired for his basketball acumen. He wasn’t hired to nag Kevin Porter Jr. about hitting corner shooters.
In 2023-24, this team’s directive changes. With its first-round pick owed to the Thunder with top-four protection (and God help us all if the Rockets are picking in the top four again), the goal will unambiguously be to win games.
In other words, Xs and Os will start to matter. Silas’ job description will suddenly be the same as the one he was hired to fill. I think a lot of fans underrate Xs and Os because they, like myself, don’t have a great grasp of them. It’s easier to focus on a coach’s leadership, rotations, etc. - because we can see and understand those things without much effort.
What if Silas really is a basketball genius? His reputation around the league doesn’t seem to be that of the bumbling oaf our fans have decided he is. It seems like players and opposing coaches alike respect his mind for the game. Shouldn’t the Rockets see if it’s a valuable asset once they’ve put themselves in a position where they could feasibly use it?
Having said all of that, 2023-24 is the proving ground. A slow start should be deemed unacceptable. If the Rockets aren’t hovering around .500 even 10 games into the season, it’s time for a change.
If John Lucas is this team’s new leading voice, rest assured — his voice will be heard.